Sunday's NFL draft appears to be more a matter of bucks than blocks.
Right after Troy Aikman signed with Dallas for $11.2 million over six years Thursday, the likely second choice, offensive tackle Tony Mandarich, said he wants even more from Green Bay.The reasoning?
If Aikman, who will be the No. 1 choice in the draft by the Cowboys, gets more than three-time Super Bowl winner Joe Montana, why shouldn't the Michigan State offensive tackle, whose overall scouting grades are almost a point to a point-and-a-half higher than Aikman, get even more?
"I want a little bit more than that," said the 6-foot-6 inch, 315-pound Mandarich, who got 8.5 out of possible 9 from the NFL Scouting Combine compared to 7.6 for Aikman, who was ranked fourth. Who's the highest rated player coming out of college? I guess that speaks for itself."
Mandarich did not give any figures when he made his demands to make more than Aikman, but early published reports had him asking for $8 million over five years.
The reported salary figure would be more than the $550,000 paid yearly to eight-time All-Pro Anthony Munoz of Cincinnati. It might also be enough to keep the Packers open until the last minute entertaining trade bids - Chicago reportedly has offered to deal its two first-round picks, 11th and 12th and perhaps sweeten the pot with a quarterback to get him.
If the Chicago-Green Bay trade was unlikely, other teams seemed ready to pull the trigger, notably Washington, which is seeking running back Earnest Byner from Cleveland.
Though the Redskins have no No. 1 pick for the 16th time in 19 years, Byner's agent, Alan Herman, said Friday that the two teams have agreed on terms for the trade but that he must still negotiate a contract with Washington general manager Bobby Beathard.
Overall, the annual grab bag that will start Sunday and continue Monday is considered an average one that drops off after seven or eight players - Aikman; Mandarich, linebackers Derrick Thomas of Alabama and Broderick Thomas of Nebraska; running backs Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State and Tim Worley of Georgia, cornerback Deion Sanders of Florida State, and perhaps wide receiver Andre Rison of Michigan State.
Detroit, drafting third is expected to take one of the Sanders, probably Barry, then Kansas City will probably take Derrick Thomas. Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and San Diego follow and, barring trades, they will take the next four.
Pittsburgh on Friday traded linebacker Mike Merriweather, who sat out last season in a contract dispute, to the Minnesota Vikings for the 24th pick in the first round. The trade is conditional on Merriweather agreeing to terms with the Vikings before Sunday and his passing a physical.
Aikman became the only top-rung quarterback available when Steve Walsh of Miami and Timm Rosenbach of Washington State opted for the supplemental draft. But, Rodney Peete of Southern Cal or even Mike Elkins of Wake Forest could go in the first round if desperate teams reach up. Peete could be a surprise - he is in the Joe Montana-Jim McMahon mold.
The second group includes three running backs - Sammie Smith of Florida State, Eric Metcalf of Texas (who might be a wide receiver in the NFL) and Cleveland Gary of Miami; wide receiver Hart Lee Dykes of Oklahoma State; defensive linemen Burt Grossman of Pitt, Trace Armstrong of Florida, Bill Hawkins of Miami and Tracy Rocker of Auburn; linebacker Eric Hill of LSU and cornerback Donnell Woolford of Clemson.
Then come perhaps 20-30 players of about equal ability - with offensive linemen the deepest, led by guards Joe Wolf of Boston College and Steve Wisniewski of Penn State and tackle Andy Heck of Notre Dame.